Woodchuckle: Designers - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

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Woodchuckle: Designers



Illustration by Mike Del Rizzo

Man has been on this planet for several years now and from his very first day, as he stood around his cave staring at the walls and bored out of his mind, all he has wanted is somewhere to sit so he could comfortably watch television. For a while, rocks worked pretty well, but after someone invented haemorrhoids, many people wanted something better. So furniture designers were invented, which clearly disproves the other career as being the world’s old­est profession.

It’s been many years since furniture designers were first invented and you’d think that, by now, everything that could be designed had been designed. But you’d be wrong! People keep coming up with new and ever better ways to design bad and ugly furniture.

Many years ago, I was commissioned to build an entire store worth of cabinets, shelving and counters. There were cabi­nets to put things in that nobody wanted to buy and there were shelves stretching seemingly for miles around the perimeter of the store. There was one immense cab­inet specifically designed to fit between two solid concrete pillars. A cabinet designed with the idea in mind that if it didn’t fit, well, maybe we could move the pillars. Needless to say, it didn’t fit. Also needless to say, (I sincerely hope) I was not the person who designed any of it. No, some bright, college-trained furni­ture designer, recently graduated from the Toronto School of Hideous and/or Really Stupid Furniture, had designed it along with the other pieces for the store. And not a single piece of cabinet, shelv­ing or counter could work the way this boy had envisioned.

The wrap-around coun­ter designed to fit into one corner beside the front door didn’t actually leave any room for the cashier and extended well out across the doorway, leaving no space for people to enter. Luckily, the store had a second entrance so they simply locked the offending door and stuck a display unit in front of it.

Another item of stupidity was a large cabinet specifically that was designed to display every type of battery ever made, but clearly wouldn’t be strong enough to maintain its own structural integrity without sagging drastically, and very noticeably, in the center. And that was while empty! I tried to explain this to the store owner and the designer but what did I know? I was just a woodworker. So I built the stupid thing the way he insisted it be built, delivered it, then gleefully watched their faces as their precious cabi­net sagged ever lower as they added one battery at a time to the unit. Eventually, in order to make the cabinet somewhat useable, they propped it all up with small pieces of 2 x 4 that the store owner qui­etly and apologetically asked me for.

The piece-de-resistance of the entire fiasco, however, was a multi-shelf cabi­net designed with outside dimensions of … now pay attention here: 36" high, 24" deep, and 52" wide. The inside dimen­sions, according to his precisely drafted blueprints were: 36" high, 24" deep, and 54" wide. Not only hadn’t he considered that the material used to build this cabi­net might have some actual thickness to it, but he had also managed to design a cabinet that was a full 2" larger on the inside than it was on the outside. Even M.C. Escher couldn’t have managed that trick of spatial impossibility.

By this point, I was as fed up with the designer as he was fed up with me for pointing out his stupidity, so I didn’t bother to show him his errors. I just redesigned and built the cabinet the way it should have been designed and built in the first place. He never noticed.

Sometimes it’s just better to do what needs to be done and leave people alone in their happiness and extreme ignorance. 




DON WILKINSON
don_wilkinson


Don is a self taught woodworker who somewhat successfully ran his own custom woodworking shop and school in Whitehorse, Yukon for several years before foolishly moving to Ontario. He has since come to his senses and moved to B.C.